Upper Midwest History the Middle Archaic Period

Middle Archaic (6,800BC – 3,800BC)

The Middle Archaic period was characterized by increased ceremonialism and a change in occupation patterns. Evidence of large shell and midden heaps along rivers in the Upper Midwest indicates that, around 4,500BC, camp locations were occupied for longer and used more intensively (Milner 2004:37). Mounds were constructed at these sites and others for ceremonial purposes for the first time (Milner 2004:34).

The use of native copper in the manufacture of implements and the development of the large side-notched projectile point all were significant innovations. In Wisconsin, the use of copper spurred what is called the Old Copper Culture. Middle Archaic peoples also experimented with rubbing and polishing techniques to make usable lithic objects, although flaking remained the primary method of manufacture (Green et al. 1986).

The widespread occurrence of thick midden (trash) deposits distinguished this period. A gradual build-up of trash in resource-rich places gives us greater insight into the dietary habits and domestic life-ways of these peoples. At the same time, the earliest manifestations of container vessels emerged, including hollowed out gourds (Milner 2004:34,35). Faunal material recovered from the Raddatz Rockshelter in south central Wisconsin reveals the continued importance of deer in the subsistence patterns of Middle Archaic peoples (Cleland 1966:51). Deer served up to 80% of the total meat found at the site, and was supplemented by other large herbivores as well as smaller animals (Cleland 1966:51).

The rest of the Archaic period showed a general preference for smaller projectile points. The shift from a few large projectile points to many diverse points is another indication of increasing populations creating their own local lithic variants and adapting to specific environmental conditions. There is some evidence that prehistoric peoples had specific areas of their habitation sites where they would repeatedly create, modify, and repair lithic technology (Walthall 1998). Coeval adaptations, such as fishing, impacted subsistence strategies and therefore altered the requirements on lithic projectile points (Cleland 1982 and Green et al. 1986).

-Works Cited-

Cleland, Charles.
1966 The Prehistoric Animal Ecology and Ethnozoology of the Upper Great Lakes Region. Museum of Anthropology No. 29 . University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
1982 The Inland Shore Fishery of the Northern Great Lakes: Its Development and Importance in Prehistory. American Antiquity, Vol. 47 (4): 761-784.

Green, William, and James Stoltman, and Alice Kehoe.
1986 Introduction to Wisconsin Archaeology. The Wisconsin Archaeological Society, Vol. 67 (3-4).

Milner, George.
2004 The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America. Thames and Hudson, London.

Walthall, John.
1998 Rockshelters and Hunter-Gatherer Adaptation to the Pleistocene/Holocene
Transition. American Antiquity, Vol. 63 (2): 223-238.